Amos & Andrew

1993, Movie, PG-13, 92 mins

Review

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Comedies about racism risk trivializing the issue on the one hand or becoming preachy and dull on the other. AMOS & ANDREW manages to do both.

Samuel L. Jackson plays Andrew Sterling, an African-American intellectual who has bought a summer home on a lily-white New England resort island. The neighbors stop by and, spying a black man through the living room window, "naturally" assume the house is being burgled. When the cops arrive, bungling and misunderstandings lead to a siege situation. When Police Chief Tolliver (Dabney Coleman) finally phones Sterling, he discovers the mistake. Desperate to hide the truth and save his political career, he concocts a cunning plan: Amos Odell (Nicolas Cage), a small-time crook facing a morals charge, will break into Sterling's home, fake a kidnapping, then give himself up. In return, Tolliver will quietly get Amos onto the "first bus out of town." But the moment Amos sets foot in the house, the media arrive, and Tolliver leaks Amos's identity, leaving him no choice but to play out his role for real.

A lot of talent has been wasted in this film, notably Giancarlo Esposito as the bombastic Reverend Fenton Brunch and the wryly amusing Bob Balaban as "freelance hostage crisis negotiator" Dr. Roy Fink, neither of whom have anything particularly funny to do. Jackson turns in an unmodulated performance of injured dignity (which is all the script allows him), and Cage tries hard to carry the film with his ubiquitous lovable moron routine. But the film sags under the crushing weight of its own inadequacy, lacking not only subtlety, intelligence, and insight, but also dramatic tension, character development, and a satisfying resolution. leave a comment

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